Our travels today took us east off the island via the ferry that connects the state road. As we bounced over the rough eastern Texas roads we reminisced about our last month spent zigzagging across the state of Texas. Today we were driving as far as Baton Rouge, Louisiana where we pulled into a KOA for the night. Our first stop was in Past Christian, Mississippi to have lunch with our cousin, Caroline. Last year we had spent some time with her and her husband John. Sadly, since we were there last time John has passed away. We parked our rig in front of her house and from there she drove us down to the marina and a restaurant called Bacchus on the Beach. We had a wonderful patio table in the sunshine, with nice conversation and the food was amazing. All too quickly our time was up and we continued on.
Our destination was Pandion Ridge RV Resort at Orange Beach, Alabama. Here we were meeting up with our friends, Ron, Virginia and Rocky. It was nice being greeted with waves from friends as we pulled up to the office to register. The week went by quite fast as we visited with our Sault St Marie friends. We found some
time to explore the area on our bicycles and after attempting some of the State Park trails that joined the back of our resort to the park we stuck to the roads. It appears this time of the year in the south is a continuous spring break. Orange Beach was no different and the one night we went
out for dinner with Ron and Virginia and a couple of their friends and we had to try 3 different restaurants to find one that did not have a 2 hour waiting list! However, it was 2.5 hours later when we were finally eating. As most visits with friends it usually revolves around food.
Since we are learning and experimenting with our cooking, they agreed to be our guinea pigs with a new recipe. We made a shrimp and crab casserole for them the one night, which was excellent! Another night we had a local shrimp boil that we brought home, and the main eating event was at a place called Lambert’s Café. This place is known for their “throwing rolls”, where a waiter walks around with trays of fresh baked dinner rolls and tosses them out to you from across the room! The food was amazing, from the ribs and fried chicken to fried hog jowls! We all left stuffed. A nice feature at Lambert’s is that if you are in a wheelchair, they thank you for bringing your own chair and your meal is free!
We did manage to do a few other things than just eat! We visited a nature refuge, and watched a Cheer tournament that was going on across the road from us. We even found time to use the exercise room on the resort and squeezed in a few nice bicycle rides. When we were with R&V last winter the Super Bowl was on, this spring it was the Masters. So, we joined them for apps at their place to watch the final 6 holes of the tournament. But, like all good things, time goes by too quickly and it was time for them to pull out and start the trek north back home. We said our goodbyes, and then we got organized for our departure the next morning.
The next two nights were spent just south of Birmingham in a beautiful state park called Oak Mountain State Park. We had a nice quiet shady site nestled in the forest of the rolling hills. From here it was an easy 40 minute motorcycle ride into downtown Birmingham and the historic 4th Ave District where, during segregation it was the Black business/entertainment section of the city. Here we spent a few hours in the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute updating our knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement. The museum was excellent. You start with a short movie, then the screen lifts
and you enter an exhibit of the iconic segregated water fountain. This institute covered all of the Civil Rights Movements from the Brown vs Education lawsuit, to the 16th St Church Bombing, to Bloody Sunday and the Selma to Montgomery March just to name a few. When you step outside,
you are right across the street from the 16th St Baptist Church where 4 young girls were murdered on a Sunday morning, due to a bomb placed by a Klu Klux Klan member. Then we walked the Freedom Walk in the Kelly
Ingram Park and viewed the monuments in the 4 acre setting. We went looking for a lunch spot and ended up at Mrs. B’s, a local southern cooking diner. It was a nice find and good food. The next morning before we left to head down to Montgomery which was only an 1.5 hours away, we enjoyed the park and went for a cycle up to the Nature Centre. It was a nice 20 km round trip ride on some very good rolling hills.
We relocated for the next three nights down to Montgomery so that we could go to more of the locations where history was made. We got set up in our site and settled in for the night by watching Spike Lee’s documentary called “4 Little Girls”. It is a very personal account about the 4 girls who were murdered at the church.
The next morning we got on our motorbikes and headed over to Selma, Alabama. This day was to learn about the Freedom Walk. We started from the information centre which is located at the spot that they camped for the 2nd night. It was also the home of the Tent City after the voting rights were issued to the black community for the farm workers who were kicked out of their homes by the white farm owners. We then drove to Brown Chapel where the walks started. The original idea for the walk came after the police ( white guys ) shot and beat to death, Jimmie Lee Jackson ( coloured guy ) and the idea was to carry his coffin to the capitol buildings in Montgomery in an effort to channel community outrage.
The Selma to Montgomery marches, three in total, were organized as part of the Selma Voting Rights Movement, whose efforts led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 later that summer. When we left the Church, we followed the same path that they took on the day of the walk to get to the Emond Pettus Bridge. At the bottom of the bridge is the Selma Informative Centre where we had a lovely chat with the young lady working the desk about how things are now in Selma and area. We then walked across the bridge to the spot where they were met by the mob on Bloody Sunday and then again on Turnaround Tuesday. Our drive back was the actual walk route that the walkers took 4 days to reach the outskirts of Montgomery. Our campground was literally less than 2km from the actual walk route.
The next morning we continued the walk trail where we left it and drove the rest of the way to the capitol buildings to finish the 54m trail. We parked about a mile from the capitol and walked up the road to the Dexter Street Baptist Church a block from the steps of the Capitol. This church is the only church that Dr. Martin Luther King was actually a full time preacher.
We arrived on the steps of the church just minutes before a tour was starting and we joined a lovely family from Miami for the tour. We enjoyed a video history of the church and area, then a tour of Dr.Kings office as well as the sanctuary. After leaving the church we walked up to the capitol to finish the trail. With it being lunch time we had to stop at Chris’s Hotdogs. This has been a staple of downtown Montgomery for over 100 years. We sat at the counter where the likes of Martin Luther King, FDR, Truman, both Bush presidents, Jimmy Stewart, Hank Williams, Clark Gable and Elvis sat eating hotdogs! We even chatted with Chris’s son and grandson who now operate the diner. After enjoying our gourmet hotdog we did a tour of the Freedom Riders museum which is in the old Greyhound terminal where the Freedom Riders arrived in Montgomery. From there we walked over to the Rosa Parks museum which is located at the corner of Lee and Montgomery Street where she boarded the bus and then refused to give up her seat for a white bus rider. One final stop before getting back on our motorbike was the Civil Rights Monument. On our way out of the downtown we drove by the home of Martin Luther King during his time in Montgomery. We finished off the day with watching the movie Selma.
Amazing. Exhilarating. Inspiring. Sadness. Shame. Anger. Definitely a very powerful experience. It is hard to explain how we felt throughout, and after these 4 days. Here we were, standing in the shadows of history, in the exact spots that helped change the course of it. So many innocent people died. So much hatred. Our thoughts turn to current events and we have to wonder, How much has changed?